Chapter 4

Vaughn Afonsine abhorred parties.

As the upper classes stumbled out of his front door, he couldn’t seem to remember why he had let them enter in the first place. Over the years ‘parties’ had become tedious performances; ones that he had never been fond of.

His mother (whose idea it had been to throw the damn thing) had thrust a gaggle of girls into his vicinity whenever he’d entered the ballroom. He had, of course, proceeded to dance with each one in turn, regardless of their waltzing skill… or lack thereof.

Perhaps she would be so pleased at his effort to be valiant for once that she would overlook his complete lack of effort to find a suitable bride.

Wishful thinking, he supposed ruefully.

Moiraine Afonsine’s yearning for a grandchild would surely not be appeased that easily. Her longing for a grandchild, and an heir to the dukedom, had grown over recent years, and it seemed obvious to her that now was the best time for him to take a wife.

“Father married you when he was five and thirty, if I recall correctly.”

Vaughn said that morning over the breakfast table, impassive to his mother’s latest conquest.

“That may be, Vaughn, but have you failed to notice that you are fast approaching the same age? You are no longer in the first blush of youth, let me tell you!”

Vaughn scoffed.

“I turned eight and twenty a fortnight ago.”

“My point exactly!”

In response, he had merely feigned engrossment in the paper and had dropped the matter entirely.

Needless to say, it would undoubtedly be brought up again over breakfast the following morning, and so on and so forth.

Vaughn sighed heavily. He glanced at the grandfather clock nearby. Doubtless there would be something to attend the next evening. Oh, the toils of popularity.

Perhaps the next dinner or soirée or whatever in hell his mother had invited him to would yield more promising women.

Pondering the thought, he suddenly halted, foot hovering before the next step.

He had just realised why his mood had turned so sour.

It was because the only woman he had found remotely promising seemed to be the only one averse to his charm.

Christ, she was probably the most unsuitable bride he would find if he searched the whole of Moonlight Falls!

Rude and terribly argumentative, Miss Murphy had won him over with her curious magnetism.

… if only his mother knew of his inappropriate taste in women. Indeed, he doubted she would even let him marry a  woman without a title at all!

And that was when his eyes widened.

The solution to the problem at hand raced through his mind; such a simple idea, but awfully cunning, to be sure. Of course he would have to assert all of his charm and intelligence to…yes, and then after she…perfect!

A moment later, he continued to ascend, the smile on his face wide and brimming with smug anticipation over what would ensure the end to his mother’s constant heckling.

Seduction was a game, after all.

“You what?!”

Lord Geoffrey Buckingham choked, lurching forward in his armchair.

Vaughn shrugged and repeated himself.

“I’ve found a fiancé.”

“What the devil are you talking about?” Geoffrey demanded.

Count Charles Landgraab sighed, but didn’t look up from his copy of The Times.

The gentleman’s club was empty, save for the three old friends who were currently sharing what seemed like a rather important piece of news.

“I intend to coax a governess into thinking she’s going to marry me whilst leading my parents to assume that I am courting her charge, Marielle Harrington.”

He watched gleefully as his friend’s expression turned from one of mild bemusement to one of absolute horror.

Endlessly amused, Vaughn continued.

“When my mother finds out how I propose to besmirch the family with low-born blood, she will call off the wedding. I will do so, obviously, but tell her that I fear I will never love again. Thus her guilt will force her to stop bothering me.”

Geoffrey was staring at him in disbelief. “H-Have you gone absolutely mad?”

Vaughn frowned. “I am utterly serious.”

At this point, Charles finally spoke from behind the article he was pretending to read.

“And what will you do after two years, when your mother starts heckling you again?”

“I suppose at that point I’ll have to take some unsuspecting chit as a wife, won’t I?” He said plainly.

Geoffrey guffawed. “So this detailed ploy is all to give you more time as a bachelor?”

A few moments of stunned silence followed before Charles sighed again, closed his paper loudly and threw it onto a nearby table.

“Why does it not surprise me, that you would sacrifice your honour, merely to continue skirt-chasing!”

The Viscount simply smiled.

“I didn’t think I had any honour left to sacrifice.”

“You were probably correct in the assertion.” Geoffrey added under his breath.

Charles ignored the red-head.

“Would it not be easier to just leave the country again?”

At this, Vaughn flinched slightly, his smile fading.

“Running away doesn’t solve anything.”

“Well—” Geoffrey cut in warily, “I admit that I am intrigued by the whole idea, but surely you must have doubts as to—”

“None at all.” Vaughn answered with a smile.

“Well then you are a fool,” Charles interrupted. “And you have absolutely no idea what you’re getting yourself into.”

At this, the Viscount smirked, arrogant. “Are you implying that I can’t handle women, Landgraab?”

“Are you implying that you can?”

“Pfft, do you not know me at all, man?”

They held each other’s gaze for a moment, Vaughn’s eyes full of egotistical mirth, Charles’ narrowed, and filled with none.

Then he asked something that the Viscount had not considered.

“What if you fall in love with her?”

Vaughn blinked and Geoffrey snorted with amusement.

“Don’t be absurd, Charles! He barely knows the meaning of the word.”

Charles merely gave the now-brooding Viscount a lasting stare as he turned to leave the room.

“My point precisely.”


4 responses to “Chapter 4

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